World class diamond named Letšeng Star

MASERU — The world class white diamond discovered at Letšeng Mine in Mokhotlong last month was on Monday named the Letšeng Star.

The 550 carat gem is the world’s 14th largest stone ever discovered.

Speaking at a lavish ceremony at Lesotho Sun, Letšeng chief executive officer Mazvi Maharasoa said the name was agreed upon by Gem Diamonds and the Lesotho government who are shareholders in Letšeng Diamond (Pty)

“It a momentous occasion,” Maharasoa said.

“Today we are gathered to witness the unveiling of the name of the 550 carat white diamond recovered in August,” she said.

The Letšeng Star is the fourth historic diamond recovered from the Letšeng Mine in recent years.

The others are the 603 carat Lesotho Promise, the 493 carat Letšeng Legacy and the 478 carat Light of Letšeng.

Letšeng Diamonds was granted a commercial diamond mining lease in 1999 after the closure of the mine by De Beers in the late 1980s.

“This stone now ranks as the 14th largest documented white gem diamond in the world. I saw a list today that shows the recorded largest white diamonds recovered this century and it is with pride that Lesotho can say four of the top five are from Letšeng,” Maharasoa said.

Gem Diamonds Limited holds a 70 percent stake in Letšeng Diamonds with the government of Lesotho holding the other 30 percent.

In 2006, Letšeng recovered 603-carat Lesotho Promise.

A year later Letšeng recovered the 493 carat Letšeng Legacy which fetched US$10.4 million on the market.

In 2008 the mine commissioned the second plant and recovered the 478 carats Leseli La Letšeng which went for US$18.4 million.

Letšeng was expanded again in 2008 expansion and now produces approximately 100 000 carats every year.

It is one of the largest kimberlite processing mines in the world processing over seven million tonnes of ore and moving over 15 million tonnes of waste per annum.

Maharasoa said there was a downturn in recent years but Letšeng was in fact one of the few mines in the world that did not suspend production.

“As an industry we have come out of the global financial crash where we saw rough diamond prices fall to lows never experienced in the diamond market in the region of 70 percent,” Maharasoa said.

“We are now faced with the challenges of tighter liquidity in the diamond sector and a volatile dollar to rand exchange rate. But the global mid to long term outlook for the diamond industry is overall very positive.”

She said Letšeng must strategically place itself to not only to weather the storms but to be in a position where it can enjoy the positive and protect itself from the negative.

The mine needs to continue to drive costs down, improve efficiencies and maximise revenue, she added.

Maharasoa also said the mine was planning to set up a world-class cutting and polishing facility in Maseru.

“The centre will use the most sophisticated technology available today,” she said.

Letšeng Mine employs over 1 200 people 90 percent of whom are Basotho.

The naming ceremony was attended by dignitaries including the royal family, Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki and the chairman of the board of Letšeng Diamonds (Pty), Clifford Elphick.

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